Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Do you know? Can you answer?

I put up blog posts via Blogger.

I follow blog posts via Bloglovin’ with a few via email.

The stats on the Overview stats page on Blogger say I have 1 follower and have had that same 1 follower since the start. I know that’s not true. Blogger has me as having over 200 followers in another section, which I found by accident and can’t find again. I am aware that the pages are different depending on whether I’m using my smartphone, my tablet or my desktop PC so that could be the reason for not being able to find it again.

When I get the (supposedly) weekly update from Bloglovin’, the numbers for followers rise most weeks – but it lists the ‘numbers of new followers’ as 0, nearly all weeks. It currently lists 196 followers; Bloglovin analytics has this same number. I do get emails telling me I have new followers – these are from Bloglovin, even when the weekly update will read ‘no new followers’. So where does Bloglovin’ take its total from?

Bloglovin lists that I follow 25 people; Blogger a lot more than that (over 200) with little overlap. My feed on Bloglovin’ reflects the larger number. I know that sometimes, people don’t list Bloglovin’ as a way of following them and I can add their blog address myself – that accounts for a few of the 25.
I’m coming up to a blogiversary so was reviewing these stats – but they don’t make any sense whatsoever to me! I had thought that if I reached 200 followers, I might offer a giveaway – but am I already over 200? I have no idea.

I assume it might depend on how people choose to follow my blog?

I know that at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how many followers I have (though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy having followers!) – but I am so frustrated in not being able to clarify!

We had also discussed having a family website, so I wondered about shifting from Blogger – but it seems like a very big task. I’d still want to read blogs from other people, so would keep Bloglovin’ anyway – unless you feel there is a better option?

I'd really appreciate any comments, thank you

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Update - new version of Blackwood Cardigan from Helen's Closet is being released next week

I tested the new version of the Blackwood cardigan earlier in the month. The pattern was now in number size ranges rather than S - M - L etc and now going to size 30. In addition, there was a choice of cup sizes B or D.

I of course sewed the tester version (and was delighted with it) but there are a couple of tweaks following tester comment. So my version is not the current, new one. I sewed between an 18 D on top and 24 at the hips. I was pleased to see that in the new version there will be a little extra room in the sleeves, which is something I planned to change in a future version.

I won't go into any more details as the pattern will be getting released on Monday coming, 28 January. It will be available free of charge in both B and D versions to all previous purchasers.

As a tester, I received the new pattern today (but as a previous purchaser would have had it updated, in any case). I downloaded and am going to check to see the differences in comparison to my own pattern corrected for fit. As I mentioned previously, I was going to shorten sleeves - I think longer sleeves is a young uns thing as well as provide a touch extra room in the sleeve.

You may have noticed that Helen undertook a size survey and received a lot of responses - she has posted the results of the survey on her website.

Tester version
I will add, for the sake of completeness, that I received the test pattern free of charge and was not required to post about it. I am not affiliated to Helen's Closet and all views are my own.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

A long time ago....

Those of you who have read my blog in the past will be aware that I have been trying to make a tartan skirt/ kilt for Helen, my youngest daughter, for yonks, using the family tartan we had specially woven; many many many yards of it (yes, that many!) We have two weights of the tartan - a heavy one woven many years ago (some of it made into a kilt for David) and a medium weight one woven two or three years ago or more specifically thinking about Helen's skirt. Yes, she requested it that long ago! Actually, it was even longer ago as she requested this using the heavyweight tartan before I started sewing, when we going to get it made. I can't quite remember. It took us a long time to decide that the heavyweight tartan was too heavy and to elect to get a medium weight cloth woven. The story of the tartan is here and in earlier blog posts.  Here, for example

The tartan

In the past, I have had two main attempts at tartan skirt toiles, using plaid fabric but not the real deal. It was slightly problematic as Helen wasn’t then, and still isn’t, exactly sure of the style she wants. She is clearer than she was though. She now wants ‘a cute pleated mini skirt’ in the family tartan.

The first toile was a fully pleated skirt. Narrow waistband. Pleats stitched down part way. Very classical. It was knee length and so was far too long for Helen’s taste, but it was designed to see if she’d like the style. 

Christmas 2015!! I didn't realise it was that long ago!

I didn't use a pattern, as that was the advice I got from books and in person from those who might know. At the time, I got the impression she didn’t like it but I think on reflection that was to do with the length; I thought I could just have made it shorter. She told me this week that the issues were that it wasn’t a mini skirt but also that it made her look very hippy on the side opposite the zip as it didn’t lie flat and the pleats seem to twist around (I thought it was too big at the waist when I saw her wear it previously but that was a while ago). She says she does like it, and it fits well at the waist, so she’s tempted to go for a shorter version of that. I didn't use a pattern, struggled a bit and wasn't at all happy with the zip closure, by far the weakest part. Helen held a Burn’s Supper in her flat at the weekend (yes, early!) and wore it then so her thoughts on the skirt are current.

The second toile was a shorter circular skirt - at that time, she hadn’t settled on pleats. I used a commercial pattern. This just wasn't what she had in mind.

I have this pattern:
This has many good elements but Helen doesn't want a yoke like this and it's probably too long. Maybe it's still doable

Originally, she was against the idea of a proper kilt (or maybe that was us as kilts aren’t for girls in theory and by tradition at least) - but isn’t now. She has said too that she’d be happy with box pleats (but not like the pattern I showed her as she found that one frumpy). 
No to this
Modern Simplicity pattern; I don't have this pattern and I couldn't get any of the older ones.
I could buy this one but kilts are usually made directly on the fabric

She has recently bought a skirt from Pretty Little Things that she likes. I've seen a photo but not the real thing. It's fully pleated.

Helen tried on and liked a skirt from Jack Wills; she took photos of her trying on the size 10 (UK), a perfect fit, but didn’t buy it. I decided to buy it but unfortunately could only get a 12 so it will be going back after a bit of examination! It’s not on the website. I tried the 12 on Missy, the dressmaking model adapted to Helen's size (see here)  and it just slipped down below the waist onto the hip.

We're going to have a chat on the phone, but I think I’m clearer. I have already said to Helen that our tartan is a heavy wool and pleats will inevitably make it bulkier - and therefore make her look hippier. I also said that I thought the kilt-type closure is potentially better for fitting.

I have a pattern for a short full pleated skirt. 

It’s slightly long but could be shortened by the 2” required. A bigger issue is that although it is shown in tartan, the tartan repeat (the spacing of the checks) is not the same as ours. Therefore, I can’t really follow the pattern, though it might give me a better idea of how to proceed. When I made the previous full pleated version, I didn’t use a pattern and wasn't sure how to finish off. I had one long piece sewn together at one side, the zip side - maybe that’s why the skirt twists on wearing?

A big issue with pleating tartan for a woman is waist shaping. When I made the full pleated version, I carefully increased the depth of each and every pleat towards the top to try to achieve the reduction in width without compromising the pattern match. This took a long time and involved lots of calculations.

My preference is for a version of the Jack Wills kilted skirt. This has the kilt wrap at the front but there are two pleats each side of the plain wrap. The side seam is smooth for about 2” each side of the seam. No zip of course. The back then has two pleats plus a dart at each side, but the centre is smooth.

The JW skirt is pretty good but isn’t exactly matched - so perhaps that issue is less relevant to Helen than the overall ‘feel’ of the garment. Having the side seams free of pleats and using the darts will help with the shaping. Having just the two pleats allows me a far greater flexibility. The pleats can be 'any' width to fit in so I can match the pattern to the set size. In the full pleated version, the pleats had to match all the way around. A lot of calculation and experimentation and careful measurement. Of course, each tartan is different, so those calculations are worthless now.

Another issue is that I’d like the selvedge to form the bottom of the skirt as a hem would be bulky. This is traditional in kilts. I need to examine the tartan to see if this is possible. I won’t be doing that, though, until I am well into the process of pattern making and toileing.

I think I’ve decided what I want to do, unless Helen has a strong opinion to the contrary. I don’t think she does as she said ‘whatever is easiest’. I don’t have a pattern, so this may not be the easiest route, but think I can manage to create one. I hope I can manage. I asked for advice in sewing bee - and there are complexities I hadn't considered, mainly to do with shaping.  The RTW skirt has a curved hem and waistband. I tried to make a kind of pattern but it was difficult, even with help and the conclusion is that I'd be better doing straight from the fabric. I'd make up a toile of course. I have some pieces of plaid that will work for that. Just for the shape and rough size, not the pattern matching.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Reflections on my sewing

Reflections on my sewing

Earlier in the month, I had planned to post these reflections but didn’t get around to it. I decided that I would post them now, anyway – even though I have already thought a bit about lessons from 2018 and plans for 2019 and posted that. I think this post is more reflective of the real circumstances!

Matching (quality) fabric to pattern
You can't make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I knew this previously, but I still make mistakes with fabric choice - or maybe it’s the right fabric but the wrong pattern? It’s certainly sometimes the wrong style for me! Cheap fabric has a place for toiles etc but not for a garment I am going to take many hours to make and hope to wear for a long time.

Cheap, maybe off-grain fabric leads to the need for extra time spent and probably a less than optimal result. I spent a LOT of extra time on the wonky knit I recently used for the Blackwood cardigan; note that fabric wasn’t ‘cheap’ though I did get it in the sale.
Wonky fabric. A lot of work to salvage it. Final cardigan at the end of the post
There are some shapes which will never suit me - why have I persisted so long? I’m thinking of the vintage style dress I made a couple of years ago - I spent ages trying to fit it. Why? I didn’t suit it.
I thought you'd rather see the pattern envelope than my version which I did post about, though.
I have to remind myself that as a larger and taller individual, I'm not going to look as good as the slim models.

The fabric was a lovely Liberty - but the style of the print and the colour weren't for me.
I had the fabric and made the toile - it was not a good look for me! I have given the pattern away

I’m hoping that trousers/pants don’t fall into this category as I like wearing them and they fit in with my lifestyle. I think wider legged trousers are easier to fit but perhaps not ideal for my shape. I’ve long since given up on the idea of skinny jeans or jeggings.

Quality over quantity
Other than getting trousers to fit well, I don’t have a huge need for clothes!! I have many (not all brilliant quality) and look after them so don’t go through them that quickly. Except for trousers! So it’s important that I take my time, use the best quality fabric for the job, probably natural. I don’t have the space to store a lot more clothes. I’m just not much of a fashionista. I do like well sewn classics that will last forever. As I replace the items I have, I hope that’s the direction I’m steering towards. I should say, I’m willing to add RTW if I come across something suitable (unlikely, sadly). I’m not saying I have to make everything I wear - I would end up nude!

As I approached some trickier bits of sewing (either genuinely trickier or that I believed would be tricky), I found myself procrastinating. I need to avoid this - the actual sewing was never as bad or as difficult as I thought it was going to be. Procrastination means that I end up rushing at the end and leads to mistakes. Actually, I realise that I procrastinate all the time! Like writing this, or reading blog posts or...

Even when I think there is no problem, I need to do more practice sewing. This would have avoided the problem I had with the armhole binding on Helen’s silk dress. As I had successfully done it on a previous version, I assumed it would be okay, but it wasn’t. Different fabric = different issues, even when they are supposed to be ‘identical’. I ended up doing the practice pieces after I had made the mistake in the first place.

I reckon I know what I like and what I want to make so I need to plan out how I’m going to achieve that. I’ve stopped being seduced by the latest pattern I’ve seen. I’ve stopped entering contests and competitions for the sake of it. However, I recognise that as an inherently competitive individual, these do have a place! I’d like to enter the trouser contest late in the spring, hoping that might give me the push I need - but only if the timing is reasonable for the point I’ve reached in the process.

Destash and organise
I have much more fabric and many more patterns than I could sew in my lifetime. Hence, I need to destash. That will help with my space issues. By the way, I have a very large house - it has a disproportionate amount of my stuff in it and a relative lack of storage space. Anyway, when things are stored you forget about them or can’t find them when you want them.

On that note, I planned to continue with the blouse I started before Christmas - but couldn’t find the pieces (already cut out with pattern still pinned to them) anywhere. Turned out I was looking for the wrong container and David found them tonight. So at least I have some work to take to sewing bee next week.

My friend Chris from sewing bee has requested any scraps etc I might create as she is making and stuffing a pouffe. First lot is going to her next week. Sadly, I had dealt with a large bundle just before she asked me. I did have an issue with scraps - some big enough to make ‘something’. Chris also wants the little bits.

Get fit
It would probably be easier to fit me if I was back to nearer the weight I feel comfortable at. The extra weight does appear to lead to extra fitting problems - and of course is bad for my health. I’ve just (re)joined Slimming World on a 12 week ‘Countdown’ membership; in that time apparently, you can be expected to lose 2 stones. That would get me well on the way. I do find the group environment helpful.

I’m not yet able to get back to the gym or golf. My foot is still rather painful. I hope I can get to play on my golfing holiday to Spain in May! Oh, if I’ve lost weight, my pre-existing golf clothes should fit so no great pressure to make more. I don’t need to be high fashion.

I need to do more cooking to make the meals I want for my eating plan; David has done a lot of cooking to let me sew but that is perhaps another reason why my weight has crept up. This of course means less time for sewing but if I am back to my slimmer self, it will be well worth it.

Today I made a lovely vegetable Scotch-type broth. We had it for lunch and 3 portions for the freezer. I also made a lovely chicken, sweet potato and squash tagine; we had it for evening meal and there are a few portions left for another time. These fitted in with my eating plan. If I batch cook, there is hopefully less cooking to do later, and more time to sew!

Actual sewing plans?
No, not yet.
Last year I only managed 2 of my ‘makenine’. At least only 2 were successful. 2 others were disastrous wadders. The others were trousers, jeans and pants - and I didn’t get past the first stage of fitting. As I will lose weight this year, I’m not sure as yet when I’ll start being able to make well-fitting trousers and I’m not going to put unnecessary pressure on myself. I am going to continue to pursue this goal, though

I have decided, though, that I will not sew orphans. Any item I make must go with the previous or the next item I make. I think this is referred to as ‘endless combinations’. However, if a special event requires that I make something then that of course is fine; I sadly don’t go to many special events, so I haven’t figured in making items for these events. (I’d ‘like’ a dress for my birthday)

Earlier in January I  made a Blackwood cardigan and I’m planning a tank to go under it. I’ve chosen the fabric and the pattern but still need to alter it - that has led to this round of procrastination!

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Tester version of extended size range Blackwood Cardigan

I really liked the versions of the Blackwood cardigan I made in March 2018. I intended to make another but the fabric I bought specifically for it was distinctly off-grain. At sewing bee, however, Rory showed me how to correct this; she thought I'd be able to use it okay. I didn’t get around to making the cardigan after trying the correction and the fabric was left languishing.

Then, late last year, I got the opportunity to test Helen’s new draft Blackwood cardigan, which will come in an expanded size range and in a D cup as well as the original B cup. She asked for testers and I responded. The testing ran from 4th to 14th January, though I had to get mine done earlier as I was going away for a long weekend. I believe the final pattern could be released as early as the end of this month, after all the tester input is analysed

Completed tester version

I bought new fabric and prepped it but the pattern made my eyes cross so at the end of the day, I used that original fabric, that had been off-grain but which had now been corrected with varying degrees of success. I had cut the pieces into appropriate Blackwood cardigan sized pieces prior to treating.

I chose my size. Although I am ‘officially’ only a B cup by the way patterns including this one calculate this, I can’t get along with that and nearly always have to do a full bust adjustment. I just don't think that this particular measurement can take your particular body shape into account. Indeed, on the previous two Blackwoods I made, I had done a ‘cheater’ FBA and a full biceps adjustment as well as lengthening the short cardigan by 3 inches.

Previous version

Previous version

Previous version

I felt that there were two things I would change from the first time.  The first was that the sleeves were a bit tight when a sleeved tee was underneath.  The matching ‘twinset’ top caused a very distinct VSL  - visible sleeve line - but that fabric is fairly bulky.

This time, I decided to make the 18D at the shoulders; 20D at the bottom of the armscye and grading out to a 24D at the hip. I am an ‘8’ shape - which is a bit like a pear but with a high and full upper hip, which is much the same size as the full hip. My hip starting as high as it does often causes problems. In RTW, skirts and trousers are too tight at this point, even when the waist is loose and the hip fits lower down. I also made the size 20 sleeve.

Trimming PDF sheets

All taped together, thank goodness

There was a comprehensive size chart which helped greatly choosing a size and Helen was on hand to help, too.

What a lot of waste!  I'm seriously considering using a copy shop!

I chose to do an unaltered short version - that is without any alteration for length. I realised this was risky as I’m 5’ 11” and the pattern is designed for 5’ 5”. However, I thought it was better to test without changes - and looking at the finished measurements,  I thought the pattern was long enough (and I also felt my original was a little longer than I wanted). I did the grading as mentioned above but did not make any design changes.

I could not use the recommended cutting layout.  Firstly,  my fabric was in sections.  Secondly,  I cut a full back pattern piece and cut everything single layer, which I prefer to do anyway, to make sure everything was in line. This took a little longer.

Creating a full size back piece (onluy piece I needed to do this with)

Laying out single layer

The instructions are very good and I had no problem following them to construct the cardigan.  I used my sewing machine with a narrow zigzag stitch as I didn't want to overlock until I had tested the fit.  I saw this cardigan as a toile. All marks lined up where they should and construction was very straightforward.  The only thing is that the process is pretty advanced by the time it's possible to really test for size. 

Trying for fit - before bottom band or hem bands

Trying for fit - before bottom band or hem bands

Trying for fit - before bottom band or hem bands

I decided that the fit appeared okay even with the larger 24 hip and continued to completion. The last instruction is to topstitch the band using a zigzag stitch. My fabric and foot combination wouldn't cooperate so I used a straight stitch which should be fine as there is no strain there.

I like this cardigan a lot - and more than my previous versions,  I have more cover at the front with no need for full bust adjustment and the sleeves are looser with no need for biceps adjustment.

I've worn this cardigan a lot since I made it. This is a test version of the pattern and I don't know how the pattern will change as a result of tester feedback.

The cardigan inside was unfinished. I didn't use my overlocker as this was a toile. However, it worked out so well that I was wishing I had finished the seam allowances. I thought about it, wondering whether it was worth redoing the seams and finishing the seam edges. I was all set to do it when I had second thoughts. I’ll save this for the next version. There will be a next version.

On wearing,  I found there were things I'd consider changing in a future version, purely for personal preference. I’d alter the length of body (longer) and the sleeves (shorter) and add some waist shaping. I decided to make these variations on the pattern, with a view to making another with the fabric I bought for it in the near future.  

The changes I made to the pattern:
  • I lengthened the body by 4.7cms; some feel the current length is good for me so maybe I didn’t need to do this or at least not by quite as much
  • I shortened the sleeve by the same; mind you, I did find the longer length kept my hands warmer! I do get very cold hands. On other occasions, I found them a little annoying – not my style, really.
  • I widened the biceps area slightly by simply drawing out the seam edge in a curve, matching both sides of the sleeve to allow a tee sleeve to fit under it without VSL. I'm not sure this is really necessary as I've been wearing sleeved tees under the test cardigan without problem but on my previous version, with a matching sleeve underneath this was an issue – but that fabric is bulkier than regular tees.
  • I marked the  waist position and added some shaping - about 1.5 cms, matching  back and front.
  • In order to have a smooth curve, the hip is slightly narrower than previously.

These are all for personal preference.

All done! Ready to continue on return from my long weekend. Looking forward to it. I had considered entering the Pattern Review Sewing Bee. This time around, for Round 1 (11 – 19 January) the task is to make a knit fabric cardigan (but not knit it) with a ‘living coral’ theme (Living Coral is Pantone’s Colour of the Year). At first, I thought, great, I can do another Blackwood cardigan. The theme needn’t be literal - I’m not keen on the colour coral, but rather can portray memories, feelings and experiences evoked. I considered a blue cardigan (love blue) with some embroidered coral and fish patterns (practice machine embroidery) – then I thought, come on, this isn’t your style! So, I won’t be doing that. In any case, I didn’t have the correct fabric and time is limited since I’m just back home (15 January). I’m looking forward to seeing the ideas that are put forward in the entries; I always realise when I see these that I don’t have a greatly imaginative designer’s mind! That’s fine, though.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Corset Technique Class - and my first wearable corset (though not wearable by me)

I can’t really explain it, but I’ve always fancied a corset! Really, to be honest, a well fitting shapewear bodysuit is what I’ve hankered after. I’ve had difficulty getting the right torso length even from Long Tall Sally (LTS). My height is more in the torso (particularly from waist down) than in my legs. So trousers from LTS tend to be far too long for me. Trousers in stores have legs that are long enough but the rise is too low. Anyway, I also wondered if periodic wearing of a corset would help my back pain.

So when Rory said there was going to be a corset making workshop at Centre Front Studios, I signed up for it. It was originally going to be in October, with a guest tutor. In the end, the guest tutor was unable to do it and Rory took the workshop, sadly far too close to Christmas for my liking. I wouldn't have signed up for it had I known originally. The workshop took place on Saturdays 8th and 15th December but the second Saturday was cut short because of bad weather and Nicky and I finished our corsets in the regular sewing bee slot on Wednesday 19th December, the last slot before the Christmas break.

We used a Victorian type pattern in a standard size 12 (UK) with D cup; Victorian Corset Sewing Pattern by Laughing Moon. LM100. A toile is essential and this standard size was to teach us the techniques, not to fit - indeed it was unlikely to fit anyone straight-off. I have since read some excellent tips in the website Truly Victorian - here.

The pattern comes in a huge range of body and cup sizes. It also comes in two main style  - Dore straight style (counter-intuitively but fitting with the style of the era better for larger busts) and Silverado bust gore (better for smaller busts)plus there are also patterns for a chemise and open drawers in the pack.

The one we did was the Dore, the simpler of the two. In the same range there is a below bust corset suitable for men and women (Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Under Bust Corset (1894 - 1909) LM113) and Nicky and I both ordered that. 

We got the supplies from Rory who had ordered from Vena Cava Design.

Our kit included:
8 x 7 mm Spiral wires 35 cm - I lost one of these. They needed trimmed to length
12 x 7 mm plastic coated steel bones 35 cm
1 Plastic Coated Steel busk with silver clasps 30 cm
3 m 16 mm Boning Tape
1 x 3 m lace with metal tips
1 x 5 mm eyelets and washers (40) - and a kit to insert them
1 x 6 Corset Hooks and Eyes

Rory had cut out the pattern pieces (to save time) for us using coutil. Just plain white coutil though there are black, flesh and patterned versions also. The sample corset (not exactly the one we were doing but rather the sample from the guest tutor) was lovely - it used patterned black coutil.

What is coutil?
Coutil is woven cloth created specifically for making corsets. It is woven tightly to inhibit penetration of the corset's bones and resist stretching. Coutil has a high cotton content. Cotton has good dimensional stability, or a resistance to stretching, which makes it a good choice for such a stressed garment. Wikipedia

Only Nicky and I attended so there was plenty of individual time.

Our first task was to cut out the fabric for the outside of the corset. I loved the striped fabric and thought it was quite thick and stable (turned out not to be); I can’t remember what Rory called the fabric. We then had to mount the fabric to the coutil and we found that our fabric stretched. As the coutil was totally rigid, we were able to trim the fabric to match the coutil. Fortunately, this was a test garment as sadly, the patterns on the individual pieces would no longer match.

We then had to put in the front corset piece, the busk. The pattern instructions suggested holding it up to the midpoint of our breasts and sitting down to see if the metal obstructed our sitting; apparently 95% of women or some such figure need the 30 cm/12” length. A 13” is also available. Well, despite being tall, the 12” was fine for me (though I don’t know why I did this test as there is no way a size 12 corset was ever going to fit me!)
I didn't take a photo of our busk; like the one far left

Putting in the piece involved carefully marking the fabric and leaving gaps when we were sewing to allow the metal loops through. Obviously, we had to reinforce each side of the gap. This is a two-piece item, with rings/hoops on one side and claws (?) on the other. We had to be sure that the two sides would match so there was a lot of careful marking. When the two sides were slotted in place and matched, a  line of stitches held them in.

We also used reinforcing plastic boning. Apparently, a corset can have a lot more boning in it than we used and Rory demonstrated some places it might be used. The demo corset had a lot more. The web site I linked earlier says the more boning, the more comfortable.

After that, we marked the position for the grommet holes on the back - this is where the ties  go through. This was the end of the first day. Rory showed us how to insert the grommets and provided the kit. Both Nicky and I completed them at home. I confess - David did mine! I made a hole of the correct size through the fabric/coutil with a leather punch. Then it was a relatively simple insertion, outside the house, in the cold, using the paving and a large block of wood for solidity and a large hammer wielded by David. He did one practice which was fine and then inserted the 18 grommets without a problem. My excuse for not doing them is that my hands were very sore at the time - they’re somewhat better now; I think the new mediation is helping.

My next task was to sew the pieces together, making sure I got them in the correct order. I didn’t have time to do this before going to the following session. Rory had instructed us to sew the seams joining the pieces with the wrong side together, so the the seam allowance showed on the right side. This was then pressed, trimmed, and the channelling for the spiral steel boning added to the outside covering the seam allowances. Rory suggested that this was easier than the alternative of having the channels on the inside.

While I was stitching the pieces together, I had to ensure that I was matching the coutil rather than the end of the fabric. Even so, there was a touch of trimming required.

Rory showed us how to insert the spiral boning and discovered that the bones were not the correct length. She trimmed a couple to show us how they should look.

Rory used this; David used a Dremel
She didn’t have the end caps to put over the raw end of the bone - but as this is simply a test garment to show techniques, that was okay. She also showed us that after that, we would attach bias binding around the top and bottom perimeter.

This all took quite a while and because of the weather warnings suggesting travelling would be hazardous, Rory terminated the class at lunchtime.

At home, I asked David to trim my spiral wires. I had decided the best way to go about the task was to put bias binding over the top edge, insert the bones and then put bias binding over the bottom edge.

Rory recommended using 7 mm bones though other widths are available. They are also available on a roll to cut to size, then add the caps - this would be my preferred route as the set-length bones needed trimmed, anyway and each pair of bones is a different length.

Rory had shown us how to insert the tie on the previous occasion - but I hadn’t quite got that right. There is a long loop in the centre to allow self-tightening of the corset. I corrected this , but not until later as I found it easier to work on the binding when the pieces were separate.
This is the demo corset, completed - bias in place and Rory demonstrating cords

Again, I didn’t have time to do much at home, so I went to the Wednesday sewing bee (already fretting about everything I still had to do with the family descending for Christmas on the Friday). I attached the bias binding to one end of each piece - I only later discovered that I had done the top of one piece and the bottom of the other! When I came to do the other side of bias binding, this was quite tricky and I found that my bones were slightly too long. I decided to sew the bias binding on, leaving gaps for the bone insertion. I decided that was as much as I could do in class and there was so much to do at home, so I left early. My last few steps were very rushed and my fronts didn’t match in length - my bias binding was a bit different on each side. I decided this didn’t matter - I knew what to do and this was a sample to allow us to practice the techniques.

One problem was that I lost a spiral bone. It wasn’t among my things, we couldn’t find it in class or at home, and I hadn’t inserted two bones in any slot. Mystery. Rory offered another but I said it was fine. (As I was getting this post finalised today - David found the missing bone in the garage, where he had been cutting the others. This one was marked, but not cut. Rory doesn't read my blog, as far as I know - but if you are, Rory - for once it wasn't me that lost something!))

Nicky had got to the stage where her daughter was able to try it on and it looked okay - except the cups were too big.

At home, David further trimmed the spirals and I somehow found time to complete the bias binding stitching. There were also a couple of hooks and eyes in the kit Rory gave us but I didn’t have time to sew them on.

I had what looked clearly like a corset!

I had been thinking of Joanne originally while I made this but after Nicky’s experience thought that perhaps Alison was more likely. It didn’t work for Joanne and she said she’d prefer the under bust design.  Helen tried it on over a tee shirt (she’s taller than me) and loved the shape it gave her waist, but the cups were huge for her. I think she takes a B cup in a bra. She was able to insert a couple of cooking apples in the cups while she was wearing it. I asked her permission to post that pic and she agreed!! 
D-cup apples

The gap is supposed to be even , but this was just a quick try on
Side view
Too much space

Alison then tried it, also over a tee shirt. It pretty much fitted. She has a bigger cup size, about G/H. Alison found it difficult to fasten the waist hook but also loved the shape it gave her waist; the laces at the back were not drawn very tight. She took it home with her, even though it was a test garment with a bone missing. I’m afraid all three of my girls have inherited back pain.

Sorry, another out of focus; snapped quickly on my phone

Good fit at bust

Spacing too wide at back, but fairly even

I tried it too of course  - I say tried it but it didn’t get around my body - there were huge gaps front and back!

I didn’t find this difficult (especially with David helping!) or particularly time consuming and would be prepared to have another go, actually making to fit or re-making a decent looking one for Alison if she wishes. I think, like Joanne, I’d prefer the under bust design for me. I’m not sure when we’ll get our patterns as Rory hadn’t yet ordered them.

I mentioned that I loved the test garment left by the test tutor. That had black self-patterned coutil underneath and black upholstery fabric on top, and black channels. It looked much more put together. The patterned coutil is at least twice the price of the plain but you don’t need that much, and Nicky and I could share a length and the postage.

Rory's view of photos
When the sewing bee took up again after the holidays, I showed Rory the photos of the girls. Her conclusions were
This is the correct size for Helen but she needs the A cup size
Alison is good in the D cup but needs a bigger size of corset as there is too much gap at the back.
Nicky also showed a photo of her other daughter in the corset. She needed a smaller size as the corset was tied up to the tightest at the back, the cup was a bit big and the B size was suggested.

Other lingerie thoughts - I have a much loved, beautifully fitting, bra which has already seen its last wear and I’m going to ask advice about cloning it. Others have suggested using a pattern. I’m open to both options, but I’ll see which is likely to be easier.  I discussed with Rory and I’ll take to a future sewing bee to let her see it; her feeling is best to take it apart and clone if in relatively decent order.

Gifts for my new granddaughter

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